Discover a different side of Japan as you step back in time with this three-day trek along Japan’s historic Nakasendo trails. Walk through pristine forests and experience the tranquillity of the Japanese countryside. On the way, stop in atmospheric post villages with well-preserved Edo period buildings to discover the rich traditions of these small, rural communities.
Day 1: Arrival in Tsumago (D)
Start the journey through Nakasendo in Kiso Valley, one of the “Five Routes” that branched off the former capital Edo, and was controlled by the Tokugawa Shogunate from the 8th century.
The short bullet train ride from Kyoto to Nagoya is then followed by the scenic journey on the limited express train, Wide View.
Upon arrival in Magome, small carry-on bags can be delivered to any accommodation in Tsumago through the tourist information centre (08:30-11:30 from 21st March to 30th November).
The trail that runs from Magome to Tsumago is perhaps the most popular section of Nakasendo. Exit Nakatsugawa Station and catch the local bus to Magome, one of the post towns that flourished in the Edo Period. From Magome Bus Stop to Tsumago, the ancient trail can be completed in about 3 hours including some quick breaks (i.e. restroom tea/coffee).
Around 2 hours in, emerge to the well-preserved post town of Tsumago. Just like Magome, Tsumago was in its Golden Era during the time when merchants, nobles, and other prominent people frequently passed through for trade and formal appointments. In the latter part of 1970, this small town was classified as a Nationally Designated Architectural Preservation Site. This was thanks to the collective effort of its locals who wished to preserve most of the remaining historical buildings.
Overnight in Tsumago
Day 2: Tsumago – Kiso-Fukushima (B D)
After an early breakfast head out to Midono-juku, the 41st of the 69 post towns of Nakasendo. It is said that the name of the post town was derived from the old Japanese term for “palace” as there used to be a mansion here. This presumably burned down from the huge fire that destroyed the village in 1881.
The present-day Midono is more modern than Tsumago but the 6-kilometer trail between these two towns promises some of the best sceneries in Nakasendo.
The highlight of today’s trekking is between the post towns of Midono and Nojiri, a 15-kilometer-long stretch that can be completed in about 5 hours.
From Nagiso Station head northward to Midono-juku and Tokaku-ji Temple. There are several different approaches to these places with one that follows a couple of slowly ascending slopes along narrow paved roads passing through a small forested trail and then emerging to a tiny village.
With the temple on the right, continue forward following the upward slope in the middle of the rice fields. The rest of the trail is mainly along alternating roads – wide well-paved roads for vehicles and trucks, narrow streets lined with private homes, and dirt paths leading to small forests.
Around 2 hours in arrive at a resting area called Matsubara O-koyasumijo. Continue along the trail and pass by a small temple called Amidado. After around 15 minutes cross the white-fenced Rankan-bashi Bridge which used to be a grand structure during the Edo Period. The trail that leads from the bridge to b is mainly downhill along a dirt road that passes through the forest.
From Nojiri Station catch the local train to Kiso-Fukushima, another post town that was known for having one of the only two barrier stations in Nakasendo.
Overnight in Kiso-Fukushima
Day 3: Kiso-Fukushima – Narai Depart for Matsumoto (B D)
Take an optional stroll around Kiso-Fukushima following an early breakfast. Afterwards catch the local train to Yabuhara, the starting point of the nature and ancient trail between Yabuhara-juku and Narai-juku which used to be the most dangerous path in Nakasendo.
Facing Yabuhara Station follow the paved road on the right continuing onwards until reaching a small park. Walk on the path that goes through the park and onto the other side of the railway. Continue walking northward until reaching a two-way street; turn left on the small paved road between some tombstones on the left and rice fields on the right.
Upon reaching the end of the narrow street follow the ascending slope on the right and make a soft turn along some stone monuments. Continue walking forward for about 5 minutes and then turn right on the small parking area of a local inn and through a narrow alley. At the end of the street is a short tunnel that leads to a wider paved road. Have the option to trace back and walk up the slope on the right to visit Yabuhara Shrine and Gokuraku-ji Temple.
Walk back and follow the paved road making right turns in all upward slopes until reaching a small forest of cedar trees (right side; there is a restroom behind the trees). Cross the road and walk up the slope that leads to the forested mountain (English signage at the corner of the street). From the entrance all the way to Otake Shrine and its torii gate, the trail is constantly uphill reaching an elevation of 160 m.
The trail from this point to Narai is mainly downhill. There is some signage along the way (note: the trail that leads up to an observation deck is a dead end and no views). From the foot of the mountain emerge into a wide paved road that leads to the post town of Narai-juku. Along the way pass by Joryu-ji Temple which used to be the praying grounds for ancient hikers who asked for protection and health before climbing the mountains.
From Narai Station catch the local train to Matsumoto, a small town known for its castle and surrounding rice fields, vineyards and wasabi farms.
- Hotel accommodation in twin room with daily breakfast (for ryokan, minshuku and other traditional accommodation, rooms are Japanese-style with futon, and meals are half board)
- Meals as mentioned in the itinerary (B = Breakfast L = Lunch D = Dinner)
- PASMO Card for local transportation with 1500 JPY worth of credits
- (Note: The pre-charged credit is enough to travel from Narai to Matsumoto via local train. Clients are free to further charge their card should they wish to make use of it during self-guided days).
- Train tickets from Kyoto to Nakatsugawa (reserved seats ordinary class)
- English-speaking guide in Nakasendo from Days 1 to 3 (supplementary charges apply for other languages)
- All entrance fees and public transportation fees as mentioned in the itinerary
- Travel notes as provided by Innovative Travel
- International air fares
- Optional tours and excursions
- Port Taxes and fuel surcharges
- Tipping/Gratuities (please refer to tour notes for a recommended guideline)
- Personal Expenses
- Departure taxes
- Hotel charges for minibar or any extra charges
- Visas (unless specified)
- Any other services not clearly mentioned in the inclusions above
Accommodation based on the below or similar
Hotel Kisoji (Japanese-Style Room)
Kiso - Fukushima
Onyada Tsutaya (Japanese-Style Room)
Please note that accommodation may be on futon-style flat beds.
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